Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CSA week three - eggplant and dandelion pasta bake

This isn't anything terribly innovative, complex or exciting, but basic recipes are more popular over time and this is the only thing I've cooked in the last few days so here it is.

On second thought, maybe this is complex. Everything gets tossed together in the end, but many of the ingredients needed to be pre-cooked and that ends up taking some doing. Here, to start, are a can of diced tomato in sauce simmering on the back burner; onions, peppers and mushrooms sweating on the left; and the dandelion greens blanching on the right.

When the onion mix was done I reused the pan to soften and slightly brown the eggplant (in batches as I used four Chinese eggplants) and reused the (now well-flavored) pot of water to cook a half pound of ziti to al dente.

I reused the pan again to brown a half pound of sweet Italian sausage and several cloves of garlic.

All that got mixed together with some fresh basil, cubed mozzarella, a load of ricotta, a good bit of Parmesan and finally the tomato sauce. That all went into a baking pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and a few more under the broiler. Despite all the prep, this went pretty quickly and it was in the oven no more than 45 minutes after I started cooking. Even more conveniently, all that prep could easily be done the day before, although I wouldn't mix in the pasta until the last minute.

The end result is unsightly, but certainly tasty enough. The dandelion is the only unusual addition here and I think it works quite well with the eggplant, retaining a good bit of flavor and not dissolving into green flecks the way spinach would have. The emphasis on eggplant over cheese means that it falls apart on the plate, which is bad for presentation but makes it a lot easier to actually eat.

I wonder if I could have added structure by peeling the eggplant and cooking it down into a baba ganoush-ish paste so it would be part of the spackle instead of more chunks to be held together. I do like it's firmness as is, though, since the pasta is maybe a minute overdone, though. In retrospect, I probably should have poured the tomato sauce over top after baking instead of mixing it in. That would have helped both keep the pasta firm and it would have avoided thinning out the cheese.

Anyway, a good use of a lot of eggplant and easy enough for a Monday night.

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